At 3:30 p.m. on June 6, 2007, a 21-year-old man with muscular dystrophy named Ben Carpenter drove his electric-powered wheelchair down the sidewalk in Paw Paw, Michigan. As he approached the street crossing at the corner of Red Arrow Highway at Hazen Street, a semi truck came to a halt at the stoplight. Ben began to cross the street from the north to the south in his wheelchair just a few feet in front of the towering truck.
When the light turned green, somehow the 52-year-old driver of the truck did not see Ben in his wheelchair. With Ben still in front of the truck, the engine roared to life, and the mammoth vehicle pulled forward. When the truck struck Ben's wheelchair, the wheelchair turned, now facing forward, and the handles in the back of the wheelchair became wedged in the truck's grille. The wheelchair kept rolling, though, and Ben, wearing a seatbelt, was held in his chair. The truck driver was still oblivious to the fact that he had hit the wheelchair. The truck picked up speed, soon reaching 50 mph. Still the wheelchair and Ben were pinned dangerously on the front.
While the driver continued along in his own little world of the truck cab, people along the road saw what was happening. Everyone seemed to see the drama unfolding but the driver. Frantic observers called 911. People waved their arms and tried to get the driver's attention. Two off-duty policemen saw what was happening and began to pursue the truck. On drove the trucker. On the road behind the truck were two new parallel lines that marked where the wheelchairs' rubber wheels were being worn off. Finally, after two terrifying miles, the driver pulled into a trucking company parking lot, still clueless to the presence of Ben Carpenter pinned to the front of his truck. Thankfully, Ben was unharmed.
Craig Brian Larson writes, "The frightening picture of a many-ton truck pushing a small wheelchair can serve as a metaphor for some relationships we have in life. Just as a truck driver is in a big and powerful position and a person in a wheelchair is in a vulnerable position, so some people have powerful positions in life and others have vulnerable places. To varying degrees, powerful people have control; vulnerable people are controlled by others.
For example, parents have power, husbands have power, as do employers, leaders, pastors, denominational officials, and government officials. By contrast, those who are small or weak are often vulnerable, as are the sick, the poor, the young, the elderly, the debtors, the uneducated.
Power is not wrong; in fact, God gives people power and authority to use for the good of others. When God gives people power, he commands them to use it carefully and responsibly. Many powerful people are careful with their power. Others, tragically, resemble this truck driver flying down the highway with a vulnerable person pinned to the grille of their 18-wheeler."
May we use our power wisely.
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